Bill Evans knows it won’t be easy to persuade New Brunswickers to vote for increased taxes and spending cuts when they head to the polls later this month. But the NDP candidate for Tantramar insists it’s time for voters to start making some tough choices at a time when the province is facing a ballooning deficit and an $8-billion debt load.
“That’s not the kind of thing anyone wants to campaign on but it’s the only honest answer,” says Evans.
He says the Liberals and Conservatives are making too many promises in this election campaign that they won’t be able to keep because the government simply doesn’t have the revenue stream to support the additional expenditures without raising taxes.
“You can’t spend more money, reduce taxes and balance the books,” says Evans, a network analyst with computing services at Mount Allison, who graduated from the same university in 1972 with an honours degree in economics.
Evans points out that the NDP’s main commitments will be to maintain front-line health care and education services. But his party is making very few promises other than that except to guarantee that, if elected, they will work with their constituents to begin putting the province back on track.
“We’re going to have to have a serious conversation with New Brunswickers, recognizing that we’re in a bad place financially and we got here by Liberal and Conservative mis-management.
Evans says his party would put a stop to the next three years of Liberal tax cuts, which have mainly benefited large corporations and the wealthiest New Brunswickers.
“That’s hundreds of millions of dollars lost in tax revenue.”
Evans, a longtime community activist and labour leader in Sackville, is in his 11th year as president of the Mount Allison Staff Association and recently completed the maximum number of terms on the board of the Sackville Memorial Hospital Foundation. He says he believes good government is important, but for it to work effectively it requires an engaged citizenry.
“Too many people don’t vote. And too many people don’t know what’s going on in their name.”
Evans says his decision to run in this campaign ultimately stemmed from a move two years ago by the Liberals and Conservatives to unanimously vote themselves an 85 per cent increase to their pensions. It surprised him to learn not one single MLA opposed the hike.
“You can’t ram a bill through three readings all in one day if one person says I want to have a discussion or debate. But it was unanimous . . . every single MLA, Liberal and Conservative, voted to line their pockets. And this is when we have an $800 million deficit and an $8 billion debt. This is their idea of leadership and I think it’s disgraceful.”
He says the NDP government would put forward a private members’ bill to reduce the exorbitant payout amounts. The bill would trim MLA’s salaries by 20 per cent and pensions by 50 per cent.
Evans says he is also frustrated with the wasteful spending on business developments that don’t pan out, leaving millions of dollars of debt left on the books from grants and loan guarantees. He’d rather see smaller, well-established businesses be rewarded for their efforts towards expanding or hiring new employees.
The high illiteracy rate in the province is also a huge concern for Evans, showing a clear need to address issuesin the education system.
“We’ve got real problems and we can only solve them if we have an honest conservation about it,” he says. “I think we can do better.”
“And I think if people want an alternative to the Liberal and Conservative same-old, same-old, then I’m prepared to be that alternative.”